The years since Stephen Colbert shocked the White House Correspondents Dinner — and then sitting President George W. Bush — have seen the so-called “nerd prom” (how are they nerds and how is this a prom, exactly?) veer every which way but loose in a systematically reactive process in trying to find a speaker who is funny but not too on-the-nose about pointing out the foibles of the Commander-in-Chief, the Congress or the reporters and other journalists who cover them.
Since Colbert’s tour-de-force in 2006, the WHCD has turned to, in order: Rich Little (safe), newly-made U.S. citizen Craig Ferguson (hopeful), Wanda Sykes (abrasive), Jay Leno (so tame he repeated his old TV monologues), and Seth Meyers (just like SNL’s Weekend Update, but he had to stand on a different set).
In 2012, the press corps turned their attention to Jimmy Kimmel, host of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. Kimmel didn’t waste any time, welcoming President Barack Obama with a Muslim greeting. After pointing out Sofia Vergara and her cleavage, and noting that as a Colombian woman, it’s no wonder the Secret Service found trouble there, Kimmel added: “Mr. President, I know you won’t be able to laugh at any of my Secret Service jokes, so cover your ears, if that’s physically possible.”
Other highlights: Kimmel pivoted nice words about Michelle Obama’s health crusade with a series of fat jokes toward New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; plenty of inside-baseball-politics; “Everything that is wrong with America is in this room tonight.”; “Rick Santorum is out. I guess it just wasn’t Rick’s year. Rick’s year is 1954”; “Alright, it’s time for the fun part of the evening. I’d like everyone to look under your seats. Under each one you will find a copy of Keith Olbermann’s resume”; and some digs at the Kardashian Klan as well as his 10th grade history teacher, Mr. Mills, who said he’d never amount to anything if he kept screwing around. “I’m about to high-five the president!”
As for Kimmel’s opening act, per se. Mr. President snuck in more than a few partisan barbs — following an opening bit that put the cold in cold open — as well as some groaner jokes that even had the First Lady wondering who had convinced him to tell them in the first place. Roll the clip.